I Can Start Over Again

I Can Start Over Again

Daniel West

We’ve all been there. You’re hanging out with a group of people on December 31. Perhaps you’re talking to someone, you hit a lull in the conversation, and they ask “So, what are your New Year’s resolutions?” You pause, perhaps because you haven’t thought about that yet, and possibly because you have thought about it, but telling another person what your thoughts are forces you to commit. Do you even remember what your resolutions were last December 31?

If not, why not?

This hinges on two concepts with which people who believe in deity are familiar: hope and faith. In order to follow through with a resolution–New Year’s or otherwise–we need both. When we only hope for things, we want an outcome to be good, but we are unsure of what it is or what we should do to ensure the outcome occurs. Faith gives us the direction and focus we need to get the results we desire.

I had some Army training at Fort Knox, Kentucky this summer. There were many events that measured my Soldiering skills, one of which was a shooting range. On the range, we had to shoot at 40 silhouettes that would pop up for a few seconds at a time at distances from 50 to 300 meters. To pass the course, we had to hit at least 23. When it was my turn to shoot, my eye protection fogged up, (Kentucky is quite humid) I had trouble getting a proper sight picture, and I did not hit enough targets.

Thankfully, I had a second chance. I could have gotten right back in line, drawn more ammo, and hoped for a better result. I realized that this probably wouldn’t have worked, so I exercised faith. I knew that I was capable of shooting better than I did, and I took the steps to get the result I needed. I took some basic marksmanship advice from one of the sergeants, watched the targets for a while to see exactly how long I had to shoot at each one, and did one other important thing: I prayed.

“Heavenly Father,” I said “I know that you can’t make me a better shot, but could you please keep my glasses from fogging up?” I took what I had learned, as well as the extra strength that I gained from prayer, and went back to the line. My glasses remained clear, and I hit 35 of the 40 targets.

Another key part of having the faith to keep resolutions is to share it! Find someone you can trust, and tell them what you’re doing and why. Whether you’re writing a book, going to the gym, or learning a new skill, you are more likely to follow through if someone else knows. Finally, counsel with whatever god you believe in daily, and gain strength through prayer and meditation.

If you make a resolution for 2018, exercise faith. You have a book full of blank pages upon which to write the next chapters of your life. Have a sure outcome in mind, and make some solid goals and plans. As you trust in God, trust in yourself, and meet those goals one by one, next year you will be able to say that you resolved to do something and you did it.

These Grammy Performances on Faith and Hope Will Lift Your Spirits

These Grammy Performances on Faith and Hope Will Lift Your Spirits

Mary Rose Somarriba

Grammy Performance on Faith and Hope
These Grammy Performances on Faith and Hope Will Lift Your Spirits

After watching the Grammys last night I couldn’t help but be struck by the numerous faith elements, not just in thank-you speeches this time but in song. While many musicians today at award shows continue to speak out in political tones, this year’s Grammys showcased a remarkable number of references to raising our eyes and ears higher. In fact, three songs performed had the word “pray” in the song’s title or refrain.

Sam Smith sings a reluctant man’s plea in the song “Pray” from his new album The Thrill of It All. Admitting, “I’m not a saint,” “Turn my back on religion,” and “You won’t find me in Church [or] reading the Bible,” the singer confesses that his heart still hasn’t been satisfied and longs for something more. “There’s dread in my heart and fear in my bones / And I just don’t know what to say / Maybe I’ll pray… I have never believed in you / But I’m gonna pray.” Smith sings, “I’ll pray for a glimmer of hope,” culminating with the chant, “Everyone prays in the end.” This is one of those songs where its humility makes it all the more powerful.

Among the most powerful moments of the evening was Kesha’s performance of her redemptive ballad “Praying,” which includes clear references to her painful experiences and legal battle with producer Dr. Luke, in which she has alleged years of sexual abuse. Joined by a choir of female stars including Cyndi Lauper, Andra Day, and Camila Cabello, Kesha belts follows her painful recollection of being “put through hell” with notes that lean toward forgiveness rather than revenge: “I hope you’re somewhere praying / I hope your soul is changing / I hope you find your peace / Falling on your knees, praying.” One gets the sense that Kesha herself has found her peace on her knees. “I can breathe again …I found a strength I’ve never known.” Making the Grammy performance all the more powerful was watching the women surround Kesha with a hug—a beautiful reminder of how supportive community can be a sign of God’s love in our lives.

Also on Sunday, Lady Gaga merged two songs from the album Joanne in a memorial to her late aunt. The singer recently released a new piano version of the title song, in which she mourns for her lost relative, while admitting she knows she lives eternally: “Honestly, I know where you’re goin’ / And baby, you’re just movin’ on / And I’ll still love you even if I can’t / See you anymore / Can’t wait to see you soar.” Gaga followed her tearful “Joanne” with a return to her hit “Million Reasons,” in which she belts such lyrics as “I bow down to pray … Lord, show me the way.” Gaga’s music video accompanying “Million Reasons” includes a climactic scene when her sister gives her a gift of a rosary—a sign of hope and healing in the story.

Both Gaga’s and Kesha’s songs were nominated for Best Solo Performance at the Grammys. While there will always be performances about politics and fighting injustice in this world, it’s consoling at times to also hear the songs about looking above and seeking internal peace—especially when the world fails to provide it.

Mary Rose Somarriba is a writer and editor living in Cleveland. Find her at maryrosesomarriba.com

Holy Envy: What This Catholic Learned About Missionary Work from Mormons

Holy Envy: What This Catholic Learned About Missionary Work from Mormons

Brian Grim

“Where did you serve your mission?” That’s a typical question Mormons ask each other. And it’s one I can relate to. I served missions in China, the Soviet Union, and the Middle East, and converted from Baptist to Catholic along the way.

For a married Catholic like myself with four grown kids, that is perhaps a one-of-a-kind personal history. And even Mormons might view it as an unusual mission background. But I think it’s one that many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day can relate to.

On occasion I’ve been asked what I might say to Pope Francis next time I meet him. If given the opportunity, I’d ask him a simple question: “How different do you think the world would be if every Catholic young person aspired to serve a two-year mission like Mormon young people do?”

It’s not just the time young adults spend serving a mission and the lives they impact that makes a difference. It’s also the years of spiritual, financial, and psychological preparation supported by friends, family and congregations that make a difference. This all adds to the spiritual and temporal strength of the LDS Church itself.

It’s not that Catholics don’t have mission programs. They do – FOCUS Missionaries (Fellowship of Catholic University Students), the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, and Maryknoll Mission Volunteers to name a few. The difference is that serving a mission tends to be the exception for Catholics rather than the rule.

Of course, there are aspects of the Mormon approach to spiritual and temporal affairs that make it more possible for them than for Catholics to field a global lay missionary force.

First, Mormons don’t have professional clergy. Their operations depend on volunteer lay leadership at the local level. LDS local pastors (what they call bishops) devote scores of hours each week to attending to the needs of their congregation, or “ward.” And at the stake level, what the Catholics might call a diocese, the leadership is also voluntary.

Second, they have special callings for people to take a break from their careers, often mid-career, and travel to different parts of the world at subsistence pay to head up the work. These mission presidents answer a call that requires them to put their professional lives on hold for three years in order to supervise hundreds of young Mormons getting their feet wet as missionaries. Catholics don’t have a parallel.

And third, active Mormons by-and-large tithe. They give 10% of their incomes as offerings to the LDS Church, which helps make the global missionary endeavor possible.

It’s not that Catholics couldn’t rise to the challenge – they do in countless ways – but such an endeavor would require a paradigm shift in how they approach missionary work.

Nevertheless, one potential advantage Catholics have is that their missionary endeavor is not centralized – not all mission callings need to go through the Vatican. That might seem like a disadvantage to many Mormons, but the closer an initiative is to the local beneficiary, the more likely people are to wholeheartedly support it. Just think of the tremendous benefit of Evangelical Christian missions such as the Gospel Rescue Missions. Their billion-dollar impact stems from the legion of volunteers that help in each city without any central coordination.

These days I’m not working as a missionary. Or, to be more precise, my mission is to promote freedom of religion and belief for all. In that task I’m happy to say there is more direct similarity between Catholics and Mormons.

The Mormon Prophet Joseph Smith said that anyone who “would trample upon the rights of the Latter-day Saints would trample upon the rights of the Roman Catholics.” In that sense, Joseph Smith was prophetic. We’re all in this together. In the 1960s the Vatican declaration on religious freedom – DIGNITATIS HUMANAE – acknowledged that it is the agency and response of each individual to promote salvation in Christ rather than rely on the government to defend what it deems to be “orthodox” beliefs.

Today, I’m heading the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, which helps businesses, governments, and civil society see the pragmatic benefits of religious freedom. It’s another area where Catholics and Mormons have a lot in common. But that’s an essay for a different day.

Brian Grim is a member of the Roman Catholic Church. As president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, he interacts with people of many different faiths around the world.

Editor’s note: This essay is part of an ongoing series on Holy Envy. People of various religions explain what they admire in other faiths. The purpose is to increase understanding and solidarity between believers.

My Best Humility Teacher: The Balance Beam

My Best Humility Teacher: The Balance Beam

Erin Facer

“How did I get here?!” Surrounded by foam pits, balance beams and parallel bars, I found my less-than-flexible-self signed up for a semester-long course in gymnastics.

At some point during my college career I got the bright idea that I could learn more from my classes than what was outlined in the syllabus. A course on Scandinavian history taught by a 95-year-old man with a low gravelly voice, for example, could help me learn attentiveness and endurance. Every math class would undoubtedly test my optimism and patience. At the end of my schooling I didn’t want to just walk away with a history diploma; I wanted to walk away a better, stronger person. So, each semester my schedule included one class specifically selected to teach me a character-building attribute.

Hence, here I sat in a large gym, ready to embark on a journey toward–humility.

F is for Fail

Humility is perfect quietness of heart. It is to be at rest when nobody praises me, and when I am blamed or despised. – Andrew Murray

According to the above definition, my first day in humility 101 would have earned me an F. Mere moments after my arrival on the first day, the humiliation began. My teacher pulled me aside and said, “don’t you know you are too tall to be a gymnast?” I smiled and tried to brush it off with a joke, but as the other students discussed their prior experience in dance, tumbling and other gymnastic pursuits, I started to sweat. I had no quietness of heart. I was not at rest. My heart raced. “Do you think he knows I also can’t do a head stand, cartwheel or even touch my toes?”

If at First You Don’t Succeed…Hide from Your Neighbors

People of integrity do not hide their reactions or opinions, they do not manipulate others through deception and they do not pretend. – Unknown

Our class was organized around stations where we could develop specific skills. Stations included the bars, balance beam, and the vault. Eventually, we would all have to display our skills to the class for our final exam. All my classmates seemed to pick up skills quickly and attempted increasingly challenging stunts. I, on the other hand, worked on the same basic skills over and over again with little to no improvement.

What bothered me the most was not how bad I was, but others knowing I was inept. Each class I expertly sought out the station no one else wanted in hopes of hiding my abysmal attempts. It was lonely, frustrating and tough on my self-esteem.

Humility is Confidence

Humility is not self-deprecating, rather it is the quiet internal confidence allowing you to accept things as they are, especially yourself. – Casar Jacobson

All too soon, the day of our final arrived. I awoke feeling sick. I lay in bed and jumped through all kinds of mental hoops to try and justify why it would be okay to skip. “The test is not really important for the grade.” “There probably won’t be enough time for everyone anyway.” And finally the real kicker, “it will be humiliating!”

Then the obvious struck me, “of course it will be humiliating. This is your humility class after all!” In that moment I set my jaw, rallied my courage and marched to class determined to show what I could and could not do.

Well, as suspected, I was the worst, but it was not humiliating. Humiliating implies a loss of self-respect and in this instance my self-respect actually increased. It did not ultimately matter that I was bad at gymnastics. I would soon be done with the class and never have to attempt the balance beam again. What mattered was that I could face my fear of other’s derision head on. I could celebrate the success of others while acknowledging my own limitations. Despite a poor grade in gymnastics, I ended up with good marks in humility.

So, next semester, sumo-wrestling here I come!

Erin Facer is a graduate of Brigham Young University and proud southerner. Contact her at facererin@gmail.com

Holy Envy: A Muslim Woman Celebrates Her Catholic Heritage

Holy Envy: A Muslim Woman Celebrates Her Catholic Heritage

Amira Alsareinye

Since birth I was exposed to two different, beautiful worlds — Catholicism and Islam. Likewise, my parents gave me two wonderfully distant cultures — Mexican and Syrian. To add to this curiosity, my parents met in Texas and raised me right there in the heart of the Bible belt. So, to say that I’m unique is an understatement. But I love my heritages in all their cultural and geographical variety.

My experience with two contrasting religions has enriched my spiritual life. Growing up I would mimic my Muslim father in his daily prayers, and my mother would come to my room at night and ask me to recite the “Our Father.” When we visited my grandmother at Christmas time, her house smelled of tamales and spices and her tree was covered in ornaments and candy canes. Oh, how I wished I could have a tree, or at least help decorate it. We didn’t celebrate Christmas at home, much less have a tree, so when we visited my Abuela it felt special.

The decorations, the family, the food, and of course the presents, all celebrated the Spirit of God, or as Muslims say Rooh-Allah. In more traditional Catholic circles, Christmas celebration lasts forty days and ends at the Feast of the Purification of Mary in February.

Muslims celebrate Eid at the end of Ramadan when gifts are exchanged with family, similar to Christmas. But the sharing was incomplete because my father’s side of the family lived far away in Syria, a place I wouldn’t see until I turned ten. I always felt so isolated from the other children. My family was different, my holidays were different, my culture was different, and my fellow Texans thought I was so odd. But surrounded by family who loved me, Christmas at Abuela’s made me feel accepted, even if they didn’t understand why I couldn’t eat the tamales (though they were pork-free).

Though I often felt conflicted by these two religions, I eventually decided Islam was the right path for me. How ironic, then, that years later I ended up at a Catholic university. Who would have thought the Muslim girl who wears hijab and prays five times a day would be hanging around the school chapel almost every day? Not me, that’s for sure. In my sophomore year at The University of the Incarnate Word (UIW), I discovered an interfaith student organization and was able to learn more about the Catholic faith, as well as many other faiths. I began inviting friends to the group and attending events with excitement.

At that time, the leader was nearing graduation and the organization asked me to take her place. I felt overwhelmed at first, but after careful consideration accepted. Not only did I become president of the organization, but I also began working as the interfaith intern in campus ministry. I went from a shy, quiet person to laughing and joking every day. My colleagues were like an extended family to me, so even if I wasn’t on the clock organizing events, I loved to just stick around.

When I wasn’t in the offices I helped the sacristan in the Chapel. He often cared for the place alone so I would go in and ask if he needed assistance. I helped raise the banners behind the altar, water the plants, and set up the area near the door of the chapel. When Advent season came, that little girl wishing to decorate at her Abuela’s suddenly emerged within me. So I rummaged through the closet and found pink and purple candles to put on the wreath.

I asked many questions about Catholicism and always learned something new. Decorating was one thing, but feeling comfortable enough to converse with an officer of the church gave me gratitude. And though I can’t speak for all Muslims, this experience made me wish Muslim clerics were as open. There are many Sheikhs willing to answer my questions, but the dignity of their position seems to require a certain reserve.

The opportunities I had to decorate this Catholic chapel prompt me to ponder the relationship between creativity and faith. God is the ultimate Creator. So when we, as His creations, use our resources to create something artistic, we move closer to Him. As Muslims we say that nothing resembles God — Laysa Kamithlihi Shay — but we strive to keep righteous actions to near ourselves to His presence. Surrounded by divine inspiration to create, we in turn can inspire others.

Mosques, brocaded with geometric shapes and beautiful calligraphy, are examples of this artistic inspiration. But I sometimes secretly wish that Islamic holidays came with the same kind of decoration and festivity as Christmas. This is okay because learning about the religious practices of others only helps me grow in my own faith.

I am proud to be a Muslim woman, but the Catholic heritage I received from my mother and grandmother continue to broaden my appreciation for humankind. Having lived between two worlds, I still feel the personal pull of both Islam and Catholicism and wish others could experience the beauty that I have.

Amira Alsareinye holds a Bachelor of Arts in biology from The University of the Incarnate Word (UIW). While attending UIW, she worked as the Interfaith Student Ministry Intern for Campus Ministry. She is currently busy caring for her two children. Her passions include art, science, and writing.

Editor’s note: This essay is part of an ongoing series on Holy Envy. People of various religions explain what they admire in other faiths. The purpose is to increase understanding and solidarity between believers.

Fitness and Faith—The Connection Between Body, Mind, and Spirit

Fitness and Faith—The Connection Between Body, Mind, and Spirit

McCall Bulloch

fitness and faith. the mind, body, and spirit are connected

As a multi-sport athlete throughout elementary and high school, exercise was a daily habit for me and was ingrained in my lifestyle. However, at college, without the encouragement from coaches, teammates, and the competition—let’s be honest, I am that person that loves to win—I lost all motivation to workout. Unless we’re counting the multiple uphill trips I had to make each day between my apartment and campus, fitness had almost completely dwindled from my life.

At first I didn’t notice a change. I was exhausted, anxious, and lacked interest in my faith, but I just attributed it to what my grandpa calls “the bird leaving the nest syndrome” as I tried to find that golden balance between studying, having fun, and figuring out who I was. About a year in, right before finals, mainly out of procrastination of all the things I had to get done, I went for a run. While I ran, I could clearly prioritize what needed to get done and I finished my run feeling energized and excited to start. I realized then that in losing my motivation I had also lost the connection between my body and mind that fitness gives me.

Studies show that exercise can play a huge part on our mental health by increasing blood flow to the brain. It raises our confidence and gives us a sense of well-being, leading to more happiness. Who doesn’t like to feel and look better, am I right? Working out also has major effects on the brain which can improve our memory and develop neuron pathways for better problem-solving. Released endorphins increase our mood and energy levels and can even fight off feelings of depression and repair damaged brain cells!

A routine again, fitness has also increased my faith. I show gratitude to God for my health, for this body by taking care of it. As the body overcomes physical restraints, the mind too overcomes mental obstacles. Working out allows me to enter a sort of spiritual ecstasy where I often receive answers to prayers and am better able to see myself through God’s eyes. My break from fitness also taught me that we exercise faith the same way we would exercise our bodies; with practice and devotion. When I am faced with challenges, doubt, or problems I try to remind myself that I can do hard things, that I am strong. Like my body learning to push harder or go further, I can learn to overcome by trusting God and living worthily.

These connections between the body, mind, and spirit are important and there is no doubt that we’re definitely connected. But are we connected in the right ways? We hear of news from across the world within minutes and encyclopedias of information are at our fingertips. We’re all guilty of a single ding or notification taking us down a deep, deep rabbit’s hole and it’s easy to be swept up in a current of emails, photos, and cute puppy videos. Fitness can be a way to unplug from the world. I find great joy in outdoor sports like hiking, cycling, skiing or rock climbing. Not only do they let me appreciate the beauty and blessings of this Earth, but they allow me to recharge and connect in a different way.

Perhaps you’ve already found what grounds you, that’s great! If not, try fitness. It can be in a gym, on a treadmill, outside, or within the walls of your own home. Whatever it is you enjoy, start small and be patient with yourself. Give yourself time to stretch your muscles and faith and gradually you will see the wires that connect your body and mind to God.

McCall Bulloch is a chronic Googler who is known to over emote when telling stories. She is afraid of birds and once cried when a flock of seagulls flew over her. She likes to ski, travel, and eat ice cream.

The Faith to Move Mountains: Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Faith to Move Mountains: Martin Luther King, Jr.

Michael Fitzgerald

Every year, an American holiday honors Martin Luther King, Jr., but do we really know his story? Streets are named for him in nearly every major city in the United States. Do we remember why?

The faith of Dr. King still moves millions. He had a faith beyond human endurance, but it was also a faith that moved a mountain—of segregation, of racial discrimination, of injustice. Here’s a story that proves that faith. It was a turning point in King’s life and maybe the history of the world.

A Threat on His Life

It was late one cool January night in 1956 when the telephone rang at the parsonage of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. King, who was Dexter Baptist’s 27-year-old pastor, picked up the phone. The voice on the line was menacing. “We’re tired of you and your mess,” the man said. “And if you’re not out of this town and out of your house in three days, we’re going to blow your house up and blow your brains out.”[1]

The “mess” the voice was referring to was the historic Montgomery Bus Boycott that had ignited the month before when an exhausted Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white man.

After the call, Martin went into his kitchen with a heavy heart. He had a decision to make, one that would change the course of his life. At first, he just tried to figure out a way to get himself, his wife Coretta, and their baby Yolanda out of Montgomery without looking like a coward. Can you blame him?

Then it happened. As he began to pray out loud, he heard a voice calling him by name, a purer, stronger voice than the one he’d heard on the phone. “Martin Luther,” the voice said, “Stand up for truth, stand up for justice, and stand up for righteousness.”

That’s all he needed to hear. After that revelation in his kitchen, Martin Luther King, Jr. was all in. He never looked back or turned away from the mountain-moving faith that he needed to change the course of history.

House Bombing

Only three days later, at around 9:30 p.m., while Martin was away at a meeting, Coretta heard a loud thump on their front porch. She instinctively ran to the back of the house where Yolanda was sleeping, just as an explosion filled the front rooms with smoke and shattered glass.

After he got word by phone, Martin rushed home to find the front of his house badly scarred. Though his wife and daughter were safe and unharmed, a furious, armed mob surrounded his house, ready to hunt down and pay back the white community for what had happened.

Two Things to Be Free

But Dr. King believed that there are two things you need to be completely free. First, you have to forgive everyone for everything wrong they’ve ever done to you; and second, you have to be unafraid to give up your life.

Martin came out onto what was left of his porch and raised a hand. “We must meet violence with non-violence,” he said calmly. “Remember the words of Jesus: ‘He who lives by the sword will perish by the sword.’ We must love our white brothers, no matter what they do to us. We must make them know that we love them. Jesus still cries out across the centuries: ‘Love your enemies.’ This is what we must live by. We must meet hate with love.”[2]

Decades later, those words are still showing me the way. Because he was willing to forgive, because he was willing to lose his life in the struggle, King marched in a single direction from that day forward and changed the social fabric of America.

The King Legacy

King galvanized the Civil Rights movement. The boycott ended the following year, with a courtroom ruling that desegregated the bus system. Within a decade, Dr. King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech[3] during the March on Washington from the steps of the the Lincoln Memorial, and President Lyndon B. Johnson signed sweeping civil rights legislation into law. Those are just a few highlights from an overwhelming list of his accomplishments for the cause of freedom and justice.

Government harassment, attempts to publicly discredit him, and threats on his life could not deter King. Only an assassin’s bullet in August 1968 accomplished that.

But that legacy lives on. In a small, private way, it still lives on in me. Thank you, Dr. King, for all you’ve done to make the world a safer, more fair, more sane place. And thank you for what you’ve done for me personally. You quietly moved a mountain inside of me.

[1] http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/martin-luther-king-jr/videos/martin-luther-king-jr

[2] Roger Bruns, Martin Luther King, Jr: A Biography (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2006), 42.

[3] https://www.archives.gov/files/press/exhibits/dream-speech.pdf

Because of his faith, Michael still believes there is plenty of good in this world. He loves his family and lives to write, read, run, and ski.

The Spirituality of Celebration

The Spirituality of Celebration

Brittany Beacham

Hanukkah. Kwanza. Ramadan. Diwali. Christmas.

Celebration is a core aspect of spirituality. The things we celebrate reveal a piece of who we are, a piece of what we value and believe in the most.

Life requires celebration – times of joy and rest. The modern rituals surrounding holidays often leave its observers that much more weary than when they started. And yet, from the beginning of creation to today, God has set aside for his people times of rest (Sabbath) and celebration.

Passover, the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the Offering the First Fruits, the Festival of Weeks, the Festival of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement and the Festival of Tabernacles were times set aside for remembering the good things God had done for his people – pointing them to things He had done for them in the past, reminding them of His provision and mercy for them in the present, and the promise of what He would do for them in the future.

When He sent is His son, Jesus the Messiah, He too modeled celebration. Throughout the gospels, we see Him not only observing His traditional Israelite holidays but feasting with friends and using celebrations as illustrations in His parables. Not only that, Jesus’ first public miracle was rescuing a party host who had made a critical ordering error (John 2:1-11).

As a Christian, celebration is an important aspect of how I live my faith. Christmas is spent not just in shopping malls and rushing from one event to another, but in twenty-five days of scripture reading, reflection on the Nativity and an intentional practice of hospitality. Easter begins and ends not with a quasi-spiritual bunny, but with a week marked by remembrances: the highly public adulation-turned-betrayal of Christ, the agony of His crucifixion and the earth-shattering, curtain-tearing, eternal glory of His resurrection. Forty-days later we remember that the power of His Spirit has been given to us for the purpose of building his Church everywhere he may send us.

The core of celebration is God. His goodness and faithfulness in who he is and in our lives, celebration is meant to give glory to Him. Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, Pentecost – our celebrations point to Christ and His saving work in our lives. We celebrate these things, and our joy in the celebration of the goodness of God gives him glory.

On the fourth Sunday of every month, our church gathers together and participates in what we call God-stories. We share together the things God is doing in our lives – the things bringing us joy, and the ways He is present with us in our sorrow. Ultimately, we celebrate. We tell God-stories and celebrate the ways God is at work around us. We celebrate, and we give Him glory.

I have grown to deeply treasure the celebrations of my faith. They remind me, first and foremost of the good things God has done for me, and secondly, that I serve a God who longs for His people to be filled with rejoicing, celebration and joy.

Jesus and Santa— in That Order

Jesus and Santa— in That Order

Sarah Shanoudy

When I tell people I am Coptic Orthodox, what follows is usually a blank stare or a polite head nod. Some people hear the word Orthodox and assume Jewish whereas others suppose since I am a second generation Egyptian American that I must be Muslim. I usually say Copts are like the Greek Orthodox, only Egyptian. That typically yields an enthusiastic “ohhh I see.”

Being a Coptic Orthodox Christian is part of my identity yet in many ways, it is difficult for me to explain my faith. My parents always found it especially important to make sure we were faith-filled people. I have a vivid memory of when I was 6 or 7 telling my mother that I was going to be especially good that year. When she asked why, I answered because I wanted nice gifts from Santa. She immediately responded with an irritated, “You should be good for Jesus, not Santa.” Although she didn’t know it, those words weighed on me. I wondered whether it was possible to be good for both Jesus and Santa. This struggle to balance spiritual with popular culture has stayed with me long past the days of believing in Santa.

My faith is difficult to explain not because people usually have no idea what Coptic Orthodoxy is but because navigating centuries-old traditions in a modern fast paced world is a challenge. Many of the practices and traditions in the Coptic Church may seem outdated, antiquated, or quite frankly, unnecessary. Why do men and women sit on opposite sides of the church? Why do women cover their heads? Or take, for example, the length of our liturgies.

Sunday liturgies are three hours long. Gasp. There I said it. How can people possibly be expected to sit (or mostly stand) through a two to three-hour-long service in this day and age? (You don’t even want to hear how long holiday services are.) It is hardly feasible to assume that people do not have busy lives and full schedules that demand attention. I work full time as well as pursue my master’s on a full-time basis so setting aside one hour of the day is hard enough. Setting aside three sometimes feels impossible.

But what if I framed it differently? What if I told myself I was fortunate enough to set aside three hours during the week where I disconnect from my hectic life and plug into a different world—a much slower and deliberate kind of place? This is a place where I can leave all my stress, worries, doubts, and fears at the door. This is a place where I can think, reflect, and share in something with others that is bigger than myself. Three hours to simply think and pray. When I frame it differently, I begin to appreciate the gifts my faith brings me that technology cannot.

That’s not to say it is easy. Most days, it is very hard to find a balance. I don’t believe that technology or our culture is the enemy. In fact, I am a full blown iPhone using, Game of Thrones watching, wine sipping, lip gloss wearing kind of girl. I blend in with everyone else attempting to navigate adulting in our mid-twenties. However, by incorporating little acts of faith my life, like a three-hour liturgy on Sunday or even a daily morning prayer, I realize that, yes, it is possible to have both Jesus and Santa, in that order.

Sarah Shanoudy is a graduate student at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. where she is pursuing a degree in Communication, Culture, and Technology.

God is the Author of My Mosaic

God is the Author of My Mosaic

Jessica Lamprecht

god is the artist of my mosaic

God blessed me with a colorful life. His path for me led to the rural populations in the mountains of Idaho, the palm trees that dot southern Texas, the great plains of the United States and the beautiful, bustling chaos of Mexico City. The captivating people, beautiful sites and extraordinary experiences I’ve had come together turn my life into vibrant, full mosaic of adventures.

Looking back on the variety of people who’ve left their mark on my life, I’m reminded of the unique colors, brush strokes, and pieces that make up the mosaics and murals that cover the streets and buildings I saw in Mexico City. My life has been created much the same as those murals, piece by piece. It started with lessons I learned from my parents, and more pieces were added as I learn from everyone I meet.

My dad taught me the value of hard work as I watched him keep multiple jobs to support our family. From his example, I learned that nothing in life gets handed to us, so you better learn to work.

My mom taught me to face the seemingly insurmountable battles of life head-on with hope for a better future. There is nothing I cannot overcome if I use the resources God has given me.

My best friend in high school taught me to value the beliefs of everyone. After some heated discussions about religion, we chose to focus on the things we had in common and built a friendship that has lasted for years. He helped me learn that faith doesn’t need to become a barrier against acceptance and friendship.

My violin, orchestra, and piano teachers taught me how to express passion without words. True art comes more often from hard work than pure talent. Music isn’t only for the prodigy.

My first roommate in college infused our apartment with energy, laughter and wisdom beyond her years. When I found out the dark stains from her past I learned that no matter how deep the pit we fall into becomes, happiness is always within reach if we choose to take it.

Two other roommates that suffered from depression and anxiety helped to educate me on mental illness because they let me help them emerge from the dark days and move through panic attacks. Without their influence, I never would have learned the empathy I needed to support my family members who deal with the same challenges.

One of my favorite college professors taught me to turn my reluctance to learning media law into an appreciation for the diligence it takes to write laws that keep our country out of chaos. She taught me that to enjoy when you need to learn takes loving the process of learning first.

The examples above are major pieces of my mosaic, but I’ve learned that what truly brings the mosaics to life are the intimate unexpected lessons learned day to day. Those lessons come from things as simple as the phone calls from a friend, the innocence of a child, the smile from a stranger, the kindness of a classmate, and time spent with family.

These daily experiences remind me that God is the artist of my mosaic. The total beauty and value of my life doesn’t come from me. They come from the people He places, ever so perfectly, into my life. I’m excited for the day I get to see all the pieces and lessons arranged into the perfect mosaic of my life.

3 Steps to Build Faith

3 Steps to Build Faith

Maddy Stutz

image of a pen with a journal
You don’t just wake up one morning, light streaming in from the window, birds fluttering about, and jump from your bed with exuberance declaring “I have a faith!”

No, it’s more like a slow crawl from your bed as you try to slam on the snooze button one last time.

Getting faith isn’t easy, even though people put the phrase “have faith!” on repeat like it’s no big deal. It’s a slow, sometimes agonizing process that many people give up on, but in truth, it’s worth the wait. Having faith puts that pep in your step when you feel like you’ve busted a kneecap. It gets you to try one more time towards your righteous desires and keeps you smiling when all you want to do is crawl back into bed. Faith is the end result of a long journey, but makes the trip bearable.

But sometimes it can be hard to see the road to faith, or at least the end of the road. If you’ve found yourself in this spot, Martin Luther King Jr. has some wise words.

“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

So what is the first step? Honestly, it’s different for everyone. But if you’re having a hard time viewing that staircase, here are a few steps to get you started.

Identify the Doubt

What’s causing you anxiety right now? What’s making you worry? What’s filling you with doubt? Pinpoint an area of your life that’s weighing you down and take some time to ponder why it’s so hard. If you need to, find a quiet space to meditate or pray about the things that are bothering you, and ask yourself why these things are having an impact on your life.

Why are we doing this? Because in order to identify a solution, we need to identify the problem.

Find Your Mantra

Having a little saying you can repeat to yourself in times of trouble is a great way to dispel fear. Faith is a concept that’s been around since the beginning of mankind, and you can find motivating quotes across the religious or spiritual spectrum. Take some time to search them out and find a phrase or quote that speaks to you. Put this quote somewhere you can see it often, like your phone. Then when you feel that fear or anxiety begin to rise, just take a deep breath, and repeat after them:

“Having faith does not mean having no difficulties, but having the strength to face them, knowing we are not alone.” – Pope Francis

“If it can be solved, there’s no need to worry, and if it can’t be solved, worry is of no use.” -Dalai Lama

“For with God, nothing shall be impossible.” – Luke 1:37

Take Action

Now that we’ve identified the problem and have a mantra to keep us focused, let’s work on that solution. Write your problem down and start brainstorming ways to fix it, even the hard ones. What are the obvious ways you can fix it? The not-so obvious? Make bullet points until you have a solid list, then go through and find the solution that would be the most effective.

And now you’ll take action. You might be afraid, but that’s okay. Faith isn’t about not having fear, it’s about acting anyway. So take that solution and run with it, not looking back.

Faith isn’t a one-step process, and it’s also not a one-stop shop. In order to find and keep faith, you’ll need to practice over and over again. But that’s okay! With each step you’ll become stronger and stronger until faith is your first reaction to challenges, not fear.

As a writer, believer, and chronic Pinterest fail-er, Maddy believes that everyone has a unique message to share with the world, and enjoys finding new ways to strengthen her faith through different perspectives.

Faith, Cookies, and Acceptance

Faith, Cookies, and Acceptance

Alain Julian


My brother Alek likes to steal cookies from our church. It can be awkward when it happens. He’s twenty, and not particularly subtle when he does it, and he screams at the top of his lungs when you try to stop him.

When we were deciding which church to go to, we considered whether they were able to accommodate Alek. It couldn’t be that they just have a room dedicated to those with special needs. They also had to have a deep understanding of what people with autism require as well as a servant’s heart for those who are disabled. Basically, we had to make sure he would really be accepted as a part of the community. Luckily, we only had to go to one church before we saw exactly where God wanted us.

This was a blessing, especially in a society that doesn’t always truly understand disabilities like autism. Ignorance has lead to people making insensitive comments about how my brother acts and how we cope with his behaviors in public. While this was and is difficult to witness, thankfully my faith has helped me and my family. And this faith led us to our church — a church that sees my brother for who he is: a child of the Most High, fearfully and wonderfully made in the Image of God. And everyone, whether or not they work with the Special Needs Ministry, loves him in the way that Christ loves him.

My God is a God who comforts the mourning, heals the sick, and lives among those who live on the margins. And my church, as the hands and feet of Jesus Christ, acts the same way. It can still be a little awkward when Alek steals cookies from the hospitality booth, but now the people who work there set some aside for when he comes and visits. This loving acceptance is sweeter than any cookie.

The Power of Service

The Power of Service

Amanda Macdonald


As I gripped the steering wheel, I was all too aware of the lump in my throat and the sweat glazing my palms. My husband of eight months and I just had just packed our entire lives into a rented moving truck and were headed halfway across the country, a few weeks before he started medical school in a city and state new to both of us. I gazed out the window as the dusty, dry, familiar desert of the Great Basin and the craggy peaks of the Rockies gave way to sagebrush fields and eventually the vast golden plains of the Midwest. Finally, we reached the rolling hills of Missouri—our new home. We were excited for our new adventure, but I was all too aware that we had left just about everything and everyone we knew behind.

I knew that people move across the country (and do much harder things) every day, and that I was blessed to have a loving and supportive husband in my new home with me. Still, I was surprised by how homesick, even lonely, I felt.

Strengthened by Loving Service

But as we settled into life in Missouri, I was also surprised by the loving community of people who reached out to my husband and me. We began attending church near where we lived, and our new church family didn’t hesitate to welcome us with open arms. I was overwhelmed with gratitude as new neighbors pitched together to help us unload our moving truck in 95-degree weather and 90% humidity. Other members of our church congregation showed up at our door, peanut butter cookies in hand. A family just as new to the area as we were invited us over for dinner. A recently baptized member of our church, who had children my age, took me in her arms and gave me the kind of hug only a mom can.

Why, I wondered, would so many people who didn’t know us take the time to show us that they cared? I don’t believe that the members of our congregation who showed us such love and support served us because they thought we were overly special. Most of them hadn’t even met us before, and truth be told, were pretty ordinary. But though the people in our new church family were of diverse backgrounds, they had something in common: they were people of faith. They loved God and put their faith into action by serving God’s children—in this case, my husband and me.

Service is Faith in Action

Growing up, I was taught that when you become a member of a faith community, you promise to be there for those who are in need. My church’s scripture teaches that you promise that you “are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; . . . and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places” (see Mosiah 18:8–9). The people in my new congregation made these truths real to me by living the promises that they had made to God. They stood as witnesses of His love for us through their small yet oh-so-meaningful acts of service. They lived their faith by serving others.

The Bible teaches “Let he who is the greatest among you be your servant” (see Matthew 23:11). And whether you are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or of any other religion, I believe this statement holds true. As I reflect on how I was so blessed by the great faith and service of those who reached out when I needed a friend, I am motivated to “pay it forward” by putting my own faith into action. My experience in our new city taught me that service doesn’t have to be some large, momentous act for it to be meaningful. We can serve anyone (whether or not they look, think or believe like us) anytime, anywhere. And that’s the beauty of showing faith by serving others. We don’t have to travel far to find someone in need of our love. We can live our faith by serving anyone around us, in any way we can.

Amanda Seeley Macdonald is a graduate of Brigham Young University, a freelance writer, a bibliophile, and a lover of lemon bars. Contact her at macdonald.amanda@icloud.com.

Confronting Hunger: Faith and Advocacy

Confronting Hunger: Faith and Advocacy

Hannah Robillard

Faith Teaches Us to be grateful
Waking up at 5:00 a.m. may be the usual schedule for a politician, but it certainly isn’t common for this political science student. Nonetheless, I managed to get out of bed and outside to wait for my ride to the local train station, where a 7:30 a.m. train waited to take me and two dozen other college students and staff to D.C. for a two-day public health advocacy trip.

Two weeks before, over a hundred students spent a day learning from NGO leadership, policy makers’ staffers, and community religious leaders regarding efforts they take to mitigate suffering both domestically and internationally because of the global food insecurity crisis. Heading back to my dorm that night, I felt equally disheartened and motivated.

Think of nine people you truly care about. Now, imagine one of those people going to bed at night without having eaten all day. That scenario happens worldwide, and three of those nine people suffer from malnutrition. Next, imagine three children you know under five. Per the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, if they represented their global counterparts, one of them would be stunted, never having the resources necessary to develop a healthy body.

Christian Connections for International Health (CCIH) taught me these statistics, but they refuse to let those facts overwhelm them. Instead, they partner with 450 individuals and 180 organizations to educate the public, share resources, and advocate for good policies that support their mission.

CCIH was “founded in 1987 to promote international health and wholeness from a Christian perspective,” but they are not the only religiously-motivated charity fighting food insecurity. In fact, Americans of every faith fund one and a half million services and constitute seven and half million volunteers. And forty percent of the largest charities in the U.S. are religiously motivated, which makes it very likely that you and those nine special people you thought of earlier have all been touched by somebody’s love, time, and sacrificial giving at some point in your lives.

Because of my political science background, I felt most comfortable talking to the staff members about the economic benefits provided by public health efforts. After all, preventative efforts can help mitigate major health crises that strain the resources of the United States and other countries.

However, the part of our presentation that resonated the most with me, and apparently with the staffers, was the faith-based encouragement to continue efforts to assist the neediest among us. Connecting material charity efforts to a purpose larger than each individual is incredibly meaningful, both for the giver and the receiver.

My advocacy trip may have occurred in the wood-paneled, air-conditioned offices of the Senate and House Representatives’ offices, but I hope that the result of what I did and what I will do in the future has implications for people whose idea of luxury consists of their children having a nutritious meal and receiving a yearly health check-up. Riding back on the train, surrounded by students and teacher who sacrificially love people half a block or half a world away, I felt hope growing in my heart.

James says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27, NIV). If individuals and religious charities work together, millions of disadvantaged people could be assisted. And that’s worth getting up early for.

Why Better Habits Begin with Faith

Why Better Habits Begin with Faith

Linda Clyde

Faith Teaches Us to be grateful

Habits: The Building Materials That Shape Your Life

It’s well known that humans are creatures of habit, but how many of our habits are leading us toward our greatest potential? Whether we realize it or not, every human life is largely the sum of the habits of that individual. Our habits are the building blocks that shape our lives.

Do you love your life? If the answer isn’t a resounding yes, take comfort in knowing that turning things around may be as simple as changing a habit or two. Although, we all know that “simple” isn’t always the word that describes the process of changing an ingrained habit. It can be really hard! But it’s worth the effort.

Turning your life into an experience that you love to wake up to each day, all boils down to observing the daily habits that aren’t serving you well and then making small changes to get you moving in the right direction. American author, John C. Maxwell was spot-on when he said, “You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” Sounds simple, right? It can be if we’re careful to focus on our present efforts vs. the potentially long journey ahead.

Faith: A Key Ingredient for Positive Change

Change requires a leap of faith. The first step to changing your habits is believing that you can. If the thought of change or starting a new habit overwhelms you, start smaller. We can easily trick ourselves into giving up before we even get started because change can be extremely overwhelming. Concentrate on small, manageable changes in habit and celebrate every success. For example, if you never exercise, but know that you should, don’t start with a 5K, go for a short walk instead. If you struggle to keep your temper, take the edge off of your next tirade by counting to 10 first. Healthy habits require discipline, and they’re always rewarded with more personal strength to do even better the next time.

Fitness guru Jillian Michaels said, “It’s not about perfect. It’s about effort. And when you bring that effort every single day, that’s where transformation happens. That’s how change occurs.” Speaking of failure, she also had valuable advice for those who get upset when they fall short. “Part of abandoning the all-or-nothing mentality is allowing yourself room for setbacks. We are bound to have lapses on the road to health and wellness, but it is critical that we learn how to handle small failures positively so that we can minimize their long-term destructive effects. One setback is one setback—it’s not the end of the world, nor is it the end of your journey toward a better you.”

A Writing Exercise

So, where should you start? How do you identify the habits you have that are keeping you from progressing? To find out, try this helpful writing exercise:

Find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. Sit down with pen and paper, or if you have an aversion to primitive writing materials, any modern device with word processing capabilities will do. Ask yourself this question: What habits in my life are keeping me from my potential? Think about it. Be honest with yourself, and write down what comes to you.

Tapping into your internal reservoir of wisdom will quickly reveal how much you really know and understand about your habits and how they’re shaping your life. Habits, large and small, affect our daily living in either positive or negative ways. It’s the habits that are holding us back that need our careful scrutiny. It’s the habits that have led us to places we never really wanted to be that we’ve got to tackle first. Once you’ve identified these habits, the next question to ask yourself is the following: In what ways can I change or replace the habits that are keeping me from my potential? Write down what comes to you. There, now you have an action plan. But remember, start small.

The Best Habits

Life is about improvement and growth. Each day, each moment is a new opportunity to do a little better, get a little stronger, and be a little happier. Your habits should be working for you, not against you, and the exciting part is that you have the power and ability to use them right now to mold your life into a joyful experience. It’s all up to you.

A bit of online research revealed that countless others are using the following habits to lead them to more happiness and productivity in their lives. Perhaps developing just one of these habits could have the power to change your life.

  • Wake up early
  • Create and follow a morning and evening routine
  • Meditate or pray daily
  • Express daily gratitude
  • Smile more
  • Eat a healthy breakfast
  • Exercise
  • Procrastinate less
  • Set daily goals and actively work on them
  • Get organized
  • Save and invest
  • Get adequate sleep
  • Keep a journal
  • Read 30 minutes a day
  • Look your best
  • Simplify

After all, “We first make our habits and then our habits make us.” –John Dryden

Linda Clyde is a devoted wife, proud mama, and a lover of uplifting things. A few of her favorite things: lasagna, farm animals, t-shirts and jeans, babies, and notebooks—lots and lots of notebooks.

Faith Teaches Us to Be Grateful

Faith Teaches Us to Be Grateful

Matthew Havertz

Faith Teaches Us to be grateful

I hate the “D” words: Discouragement, disappointment, dissatisfaction, depression. Like all of us, there are moments in my life where I feel stuck in a rut. It’s so easy to become unhappy with where I am or what I have. It’s “the grass is always greener on the other side” mentality.

Things really started to change for me after a religious conference I attended. A leader of my faith said, “Take an inventory of your life and look specifically for the blessings, large and small, you have received” (Thomas S. Monson, “Consider the Blessings”).

After hearing those words, I decided I would start a gratitude journal. In a little spiral notebook, I wrote down at least one thing I was grateful for every night. It started off being easy; I mentioned my family, living in America, and my faith. Soon I had to start getting more creative. As I kept doing it every night, I noticed a huge change in my happiness. I have come to realize that happiness and gratitude go hand in hand for me.

This is not a new concept. Religions around the world have taught us to be grateful for centuries.

In the Tanakh, Jewish scripture, it is written, “Come into His gates with thanksgiving, [into] His courtyards with praise; give thanks to Him, bless His name” (Tehillim 100:4).

In the New Testament, Paul wrote to his fellow Christians, “With thanksgiving let your request be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6).

The Quran teaches, “God always rewards gratitude and He knows everything” (Quran 4:147).

The Book of Mormon says, “Live in thanksgiving daily for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you” (Alma 34:38).

A Buddhist writing says, “Reverence, humility, contentment, gratitude, and the timely hearing of the Dhamma, the teaching of the Buddha — this is the highest blessing” (Maha-mangala Sutta: Blessings).

Believe it or not, scientific studies have even confirmed what religion has been teaching us for so long.

According to the Harvard Health Publications, two psychologists have conducted studies showing the positive effects of gratitude. “In one study, they asked all participants to write a few sentences each week, focusing on particular topics. One group wrote about things they were grateful for that had occurred during the week. A second group wrote about daily irritations or things that had displeased them, and the third wrote about events that had affected them” (Harvey B. Simon, “Giving thanks can make you happier”).

Ten weeks later, the group who wrote about what they were grateful for had much better attitudes, were more optimistic, and they even visited the doctor’s office less often (Harvey B. Simon, “Giving thanks can make you happier”).

If we all lived what our faith taught about gratitude, we would be much happier!

Matthew Havertz loves storytelling and has worked for years in the media industry, specializing in videos and social media. He has a degree in digital media from Weber State University. He blogs his spiritual thoughts at HavertzPonders.blogspot.com.

Islamic Free Health Clinic Helps Residents in Rural Alabama

Islamic Free Health Clinic Helps Residents in Rural Alabama

In rural Alabama, an unlikely story is unfolding. An Islamic free health clinic is helping those who need it most.

The Salam Free Clinic in collaboration with strategic partners, serves as a medical home for the underserved and those who are most vulnerable by providing comprehensive, dependable and affordable quality health care in a caring environment.

Halloween 2017: Celebrating the 500th Anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses

Halloween 2017: Celebrating the 500th Anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses

Heather Aslett

%00th Aniversary of Martin Luthers Theses
October 31, 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s courageous act of faith – posting his 95 theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church door. I stand in awe of this great man who lived a spiritual life full of faith in the God of his understanding.

In 1517, the selling and purchasing of “indulgences” was a widely accepted practice. Anyone could purchase an indulgence which would exempt them from punishment for some types of sins. Young Luther who studied law and theology questioned the practice of selling indulgences to pay for sin. In response to this widely accepted practice, he wrote the 95 Theses, which is a document of 95 deep thoughts, questions, and concerns about why selling and purchasing indulgences was a questionable practice.

Theses 44 is one of my favorites which reads, “Because love grows by works of love, man thereby becomes better. Man does not, however, become better by means of indulgences but is merely freed from penalties.” It is a beautiful thought to me that I can become better through love, not just by seeking an escape from a mistake or sin. It is a peaceful and happy way to live. There are 94 additional theses statements, each brimming with truth as well as questions about the practice of selling indulgences, and how to become a better person. Most people will be celebrating the Day of the Dead, and Halloween.

I am happy to celebrate Martin Luther, who through his thoughtful questions about the world around him, left a legacy of living faith that blesses the lives of so many-500 years later. I am honored to celebrate the legacy of this man who opened the door to a religious reformation and whose life was an expression of the faith he had in a higher power.

A Deeper Appreciation of the Sabbath Through Jewish Jubilee Year

A Deeper Appreciation of the Sabbath Through Jewish Jubilee Year

Katie Steed

A Deeper Appreciation of the Sabbath

For most of my life I have been taught to observe a weekly Sabbath day, and more often than not I take that day of rest for granted. In trying to gain a better perspective, I have read about how other faiths than mine observe the Sabbath, and one that I admire most is Judaism.

In Judaism the Sabbath is extremely important, and there are several observances: the Sabbath Day, Sabbath Year, and Jubilee year.

The Sabbath Year occurs every seventh year of Israel’s calendar. While Sabbath days are a time of rest for people and animals, the Sabbath year is a time of rest for the land. No crops are planted or harvested, but any plants and produce that grow on their own may be used.

Jubilee Year happens after every seventh cycle of Sabbatical years, during every 50th year of Israel’s calendar. The word “jubilee” in this case, doesn’t mean a celebration or party. It comes from the Hebrew word yobel, meaning “ram’s horn,” because Jubilee Year began with the sounding of the ram’s horn. During Jubilee Year, not only did the land rest, but all Hebrew slaves were set free, debts were forgiven, and all land was returned to its original owner or owner’s family. The two main ideas of Jubilee Year are that the land belongs to the Lord who determines its proper use, and that God’s people are to be free. Redemption is always possible.

I think the traditions of Jubilee Year are beautiful. I especially love the focus on rest, renewal, and starting over. Life gets hectic and I struggle to practice these principles one day a week, much less a whole year.

Jubilee Year got me thinking about why rest is so important for living things. Rest is necessary for the body to heal itself. Naps are a nice way to get rest, but I also think taking rest by reading a book, working on a relaxing hobby, or any calming activity can heal bodies and minds. Taking time to rest from life is very healthy and leads to a renewal of focus, happiness, and motivation.

In observing a weekly Sabbath, I love the chance not only to rest, but to start each week over and try to be better. I thought about ways I could start over each week, and I decided to take some time each Sabbath to think about how the previous week has gone and come up with simple goals to make the next week better.

Studying Jubilee Year made me think more about the Sabbath than I have in years. I realized what a relief and blessing it is to have one day a week for rest, renewal, and to start over. I feel inspired to take better advantage of my weekly chance to make my life better. The Sabbath is truly a gift from God for our health, sanity, and devotion. I hope to make it a more important part of my life.

Katie Steed is a graphic designer who also loves to write. In her spare time she’s either biking, reading, or traveling.

His Plan Over  My Plan

His Plan Over My Plan

Megan Miller

his plan over my plan
I’m writing this article at a desk surrounded by two calendars, a planner, and a to-do list angrily glaring up at me. I have never been a person that likes to “wing it.” When I’m stressed, I make even more lists to help me organize my rushing and jumbled thoughts. I make plans to help manage stress, but when they fall through or don’t go as planned, I become even more stressed.

We can all relate to this. Besides all of our day-to-day tasks that we plan for, we all have a plan in our heads of how our life should be. We imagine a big white wedding dress, a new car when we graduate, a job that pays well and getting to retire early. I thought for sure I would get married right out of high school and never have a career. This isn’t wrong by any means, in fact, these plans give us hope for the future. Hope that after a bad day we will still have good days ahead. But we aren’t perfect, and our plans fall through. Things change, people change and life is unpredictable. We CAN’T plan the way we wish we could.

But there is someone who can.

There is someone who knows all things and knows us each personally. There is someone who is perfect, and who has a perfect plan for each and every one of us. Why would this perfect being, who knows us each so well, leave us on this earth to plan for ourselves? Why knowing all he knows, would He leave things up to chance?

And the answer is simple. He doesn’t.

We all feel lost, confused and battered at some point in our lives. We all wonder how we can possibly go on from loss, sorrow, heartbreak, and disappointment. we wonder, how in the midst of all the war, terrorism, hatred, and intolerance there could possibly be a plan for us.

In a world that is so unpredictable, we can focus our faith and energy on finding the path that our God has laid out for us. He knows our thoughts, our hopes, and our prayers. He knows what makes us happy and loves us so much, that he would do anything for us to be happy.

But he can’t force His plan on us.

We have to have faith and be constantly seeking guidance and inspiration from God to truly gain understanding about what He would have us do. And sometimes the path isn’t clear. Life is hard. Things change. And we wonder how these events could possibly be for our good and help us. We may not know in this life, but I know with certainty that we will know. We just have to keep trekking. We have to keep walking down the road less traveled and know that our God will never lead us astray in His perfect plan.

Megan Miller is a BYU student with a passion for social media, writing, and her dog. Contact her at meganjomiller@gmail.com.